Every holiday season is an opportunity to spend quality time with friends and family. However, if you’re in charge of cooking, you can easily miss out on this opportunity by getting stuck in the kitchen the whole time.
One way to avoid this problem is to organize your pantry before the holiday rush. An organized pantry can make cooking faster and more relaxing, and it can make you feel more comfortable involving other people in the kitchen. In fact, your pantry could actually be a source of comfort. The rest of the house may be chaotic in December, but at least your pantry will be clean and orderly.
Getting this perfect pantry doesn’t have to be difficult, either. You can organize it slowly, dealing with one task at a time. Even at this slow pace, you can create a beautiful, organized pantry within a week. For some guidance, here’s a day-by-day schedule to help you tackle even the messiest pantry.
Day 1: Create pantry zones.
To get organized, you first need to know where everything should go. That’s why it’s important to create “pantry zones” before you start unloading the shelves. These sections should be organized in categories that fit your cooking style. For example, if you bake a lot, you might have a zone just for baking ingredients and pans. Or, if you like quick meals, you might create a section just for boxed food mixes and instant noodles. Drinks, kids’ snacks, and holiday fixings are other great ideas.
Keeping these sections well-organized is easy if you use cabinet organizers, like baskets or transparent containers. You could also hang pocket organizers on the door for extra space. Once you’ve created these “zones” and found a way to organize them, you’re ready to get your pantry in order!
Days 2 & 3: Rearrange, organize, and clean.
Depending on how large and messy your pantry is, this step could be simple or overwhelming. Either way, you don’t have to conquer it all in a day. You can reserve one day for emptying and cleaning the shelves, and another for putting everything in order.
As you organize each item, be sure to check its expiration date before putting it back. Moldy and stale food can be embarrassing, especially if you accidentally serve it. Taking a moment to check the expiration dates can prevent this unpleasant mistake and save you an extra trip to the store later.
If your pantry still seems overcrowded, you could consider moving extra kitchen supplies into a self storage unit to free up space. For instance, if you have two dozen jars of jam you canned this past summer, you could keep half of those in your unit. Removing these extra supplies can make your pantry look clean and well-organized almost immediately.
Days 3 & 4: Label jars and containers.
Labeling jars and containers can save time and prevent cooking mistakes when friends and family help in the kitchen. With clearly-written labels, no one will need to interrupt you to ask, “What is this?” This process can take some time, so break it up into two days. One the first day, find a label design you love. (You can download free stylish labels online or buy an inexpensive pack at the store.) Then, on the second day, fill out the labels and stick them on the containers. Once everything is labeled, you can step back and admire your pantry, which is already looking beautiful.
Day 6: Stock up on food.
While going through your pantry, you might have noticed that you’re running out of certain ingredients. Today, go through your pantry more thoroughly and check whether you have everything you need for the holidays. Since your pantry is now organized, you’ll be able to see what you’re missing much faster. Still, it might be worthwhile to make a list of staple ingredients and items you use regularly. If you have time, you can even create a holiday meal plan and shop for those ingredients in particular. All this preparation will save you time and stress later, when you’re cooking for guests.
Day 7: Add finishing touches.
Your pantry is almost perfect now. It’s only missing small details—things you don’t necessarily need but would be happy to have. For example, if the top shelves are too high for you or your guests, you could get a small ladder for the pantry. You could also hang a shopping list on the wall or get a dispenser for your plastic bags. These final touches will make your pantry go from “nice” to “amazing,” turning it into a source of pride during the holidays and the rest of the year.